Friday, March 9, 2012

Book Review: The Baker's Daughter

'The Baker's Daughter'
Author: Sarah McCoy

Format: Hardback
Published: Crown; Jan. 2012
Pages: 304
Genre: Historical fiction
Grade: A
Source: TLC Book Tours

Synopsis: In 1945, Elsie Schmidt is a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she is for her first kiss. She and her family have been protected from the worst of the terror and desperation overtaking her country by a high-ranking Nazi who wishes to marry her. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door would put all she loves in danger.

Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a fiancĂ©, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines are often blurred.

Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki’s lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.

My Take: As I am sure I have said here before, time and again, I LOVE anything set during WWII. I have no idea why but I find that time period fascinating. Clearly, I am not the only one because they are churning books set in this time period out faster than I can read them. Fine by me, because I will happily gobble them up! Part of the fascination for me I know is the history. Each and every book I pick up I learn something new that I didn't know before, and part of it is just the struggles that characters have to go through. There is often some sort of heart wrenching storyline that has me turning pages far into the night.

Such is the case with Sarah McCoy's The Baker's Daughter! Alternately told from from the past at the end of WWII when the title's namesake, Elsie is in Germany with her family trying to eke by on an existence in their bakery and surviving any way they can and alternately told in the present day with Elsie looking back while she is being interviewed for a newspaper story by Reba Adams, it made for a great mix of historical fiction and easy reading. 

When the story begins, Elsie is young and fairly protected from what has been happening during the war, even though it is starting to reach their doorstep. Her older sister, Hazel, has left the family to join the Lebensborn program (something I didn't really know about before reading this book!) to help produce perfect Germans. That just leaves her and her parents to run the bakery. As you can imagine, in 1944-45 bakery goods are hard to come by so times are tough for everyone and the Gestapo is keeping an eye on them. It is at this time that Elsie really comes into her own. To tell you more would give away too much.

In the present day, Elsie is in Texas as an old lady running a German bakery with her daughter where she meets Reba. Reba is a journalist doing a story on Christmas traditions from around the world and wants to interview Elsie. Reba just might be running away from a past she doesn't quite like and has some issues to grapple with and finds comfort in the warmth and friendliness of the German bakery. 

This alternating present and past story-telling reminded me very much of Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (click title for my review) where the intensity of a war story is broken up by an easier-going present day story, therefore I think making it a somewhat easier read for those who may otherwise shy away from WWII stories. And similarly just like in Sarah's Key where I felt like I could have done without the modern day storytelling, I felt the same way with The Baker's Daughter, however this time I got my closure. I knew how Elsie, our leading lady grew up and mended herself and survived the war so for me, it was a much more well rounded story and I would highly recommend it for any WWII fiction fans out there as well as those who just like to dip their toes in it occasionally!

For other opinions on this book, please check out the full TLC Tour here!

Cover Lust: I absolutely love this cover! The bold red hat on an otherwise gray cover is so striking and beautiful!


  1. I've had my eye on this one for a while -- and your review only makes me want to read it more! I'm also fascinated by stories set in WWII and read as many as I can. Like you, I always feel like I learn something -- and that's a good feeling.

    1. I think you'll especially like this one because there are recipes in the back!

  2. I infatuated with stories set in WWII too, there's something very romantic about it. I've had this one on my list since I first saw it now I have to bump it up on my list. And I agree I love the cover.

    1. I agree, there is often a lot of romance around the time and the clothes!

  3. I've now read a few positive reviews of this one. And, the comparison to Sarah's Key, has upped my desire to read this one. Great review! Thanks!

  4. This sounds like an interesting read! I like the premise.

  5. I'm glad that you enjoyed this one. I bought the ebook, and now I'm really excited to read it. I love this time period as well.

  6. This book just doesn't appeal to me. BUT...I just wanted to stop by and say Hi anyway! I have been trying to catch up with all my blog reading and it's nearly impossible. I wish I could send my comments telepathically! LOL.

  7. Oh it was this one! I knew I knew what it was about but I am so forgetful lately

  8. I'm so glad you liked it! I love books that have little snippets that teach me something.

    And I completely agree about that cover. GORGEOUS!

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  9. I treated myself to a copy of this after reading so many great reviews for it! I love books set in this time period too! Great review!

  10. So glad to see you really enjoyed this book. I loved it! I think I liked Reba's story more than you did; I thought it worked much better than the present-day story in Sarah's Key. I was glad for closure, too, but I wanted to know more about what happened to Josef!

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  12. Thank you for including your review in the European Reading Challenge!

    This sounds like a very good book. I've developed an irrational prejudice against books called "The ______'s Daughter" that I would have to get over, but it looks like it would be worth it for a good story.

    <a href="”>Rose City Reader</a>


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